Archive for review

Don’t Starve!

Cool game, brilliant artwork

I’ve been on the hunt for a game that really amuses me, there are times where I just don’t feel like being in the lab or doing anything serious. I’m only human right?

So, in going through reviewer lists looking for a game that isn’t a bloody shooter (grr why is every game some bloody FPS?) and with some heart I stumbled upon a recent release by Klei Entertainment called “Don’t Starve

What a cool game! The artwork is absolutely lovely. Gorgeous and quirky illustration style coupled with a stirring soundtrack really make this puzzle/survival game come alive. Basically, you are a “Gentleman Scientist” who is dropped off in the woods and you have to survive by making do with whatever you find. You can interact with almost anything and put them together to craft various tools to aid in your survival.

Best part – the game comes with no manual, no instructions and no tutorial. You just play it. The game is quite accessible if a bit head scratchy at first. Explore and click on things, see what you can do with them. Trial and error is the best way. Resist the temptation to google it up and just play.

When night falls, you better build a fire. It gets right spooky, and you don’t want to get eaten by a grue!

The game is a paltry $14.99 and is distributed digitally, DRM free. Isn’t that brilliant? You get a unique game and no bullshit. I know you might be tempted to steal it, but really – if any developer deserves the money, these guys do just for releasing it without copy protection. Think of it this way, you are casting a vote for quality software that isn’t crippled and doesn’t spy on you.

Also for sale is the bundle with the game and the soundtrack which I bought, can’t beat it :)

Check it out

Hooked

So this game is so fun I’ve pretty much been sucked into it. Definite recommend. I WILL get the nixie clock finished, I promise!

The EVOD BCC

Most awesome clearo yet.

The Ecig industry has always been driven by this wonderful grassroots DIY innovation, which to me is part of its appeal. Even though they have been around for about ten years, there is this air of it being a very young hobby with plenty of room for new improvements.

When I started, like most, I bought the 510 starter kit. Like most, I found it a sad, leaky, unsatisfying shadow of the analogs I wished to rid myself of. The root of my dissatisfaction was the 510 atomizer and cartridge system. It didn’t hold enough, it wasted a lot of juice, and the atty’s quickly became clogged to the point where, you didn’t want to throw them out, but had no idea how rehabilitate them. So you either put up with a sucky vape, wasted tons of cash on new parts that quickly failed, or gave up entirely (as I did for one year).

Now, with more experience and more products on the market, I feel one particular product has finally hit the sweet spot of vaping. Now, realize this is merely my opinion, and there are as many opinions on what makes up a great vape as there are vapers. Still, I think many have agreed that the EVOD BCC from Kanger finally delivers on the promise of a consistently satisfying, hassle-free vape.

EVOD BCC Clearomizer

EVOD BCC Clearomizer

Pictured here, you can see its quite a simple device. I believe it is the fourth generation of its kind being a direct descendant of the T3 clearo but delivering a better vape (I wouldn’t know, I haven’t tried the T3). A bottom-coil clearomizer like many others.

It holds about 1.5mL of juice which I think is a nice compromise of size vs. capacity. It features an integrated mouthpiece and although some have said this is a negative feature, I find it quite comfortable especially since I can’t stand loose parts or having it fall off. Its width and height feel in perfect proportion to the eGo style batteries it’s designed for. It has two oval sight windows cut into the coloured tank covering which comes in a variety of colours. Refilling is a snap: just unscrew the base, squirt some juice in (minding not to get it down the centre post) and re-assemble. The construction is solid and the build quality good. It screws together easily with no excessive force, the threads are smooth, and the seals tight. In three months of use I have not had one single leak. Something I cannot say of 95% of the other vaping products I have tried.

The best feature of all is that when the coil is clogged or spent, instead of throwing the whole thing in the bin like other clearos, one simply replaces the coil (called a “head”) and resumes vaping. For the enviro-conscious this is a boon, since there is less plastic waste and in general less of a feeling like you are trashing something that is 90% functional but for the 10% that is broken rendering it useless. Its also for the thrifty-minded, for the cost of one EVOD, you can buy a packet of 5 replacement heads. Though I have yet to “blow” a head (burn out the coil) I find its useful life is about one month due to cloggage and burnt juice (if one is not careful of vaping voltage or dry burning it by accident).

Replacement of these heads is quite simple. Simply unscrew the base, unscrew the head from the base, screw in a new head and re-assemble. Back to vaping in seconds. No fiddly screwdrivers or flaky pressure-fit bits. Performs just like new.

I’ve been using phoenix-style RBA’s (rebuildable atomizers) for some months now at home after ditching the 510 atomizer for good. I love them. I love how a few cents worth of silica wick and kanthal wire, and a couple of minutes of wrapping a new coil, I can be back to vaping. Compare that to the cost of a new 510 atomizer! Even when I started to use clearos for convenience when I was out, I still had this distaste for the thought of throwing them out the day they go south.

A recent discovery, thanks to evelwmn on YouTube, showed me that it is possible to rebuild EVOD heads. Yes – even if your head is clogged or burned out, they can be rebuilt just like new with a bit of wick and wire. I was delighted, it’s even easier to rebuild the EVOD heads than to rebuild a phoenix RBA. Within 15 minutes, I had rebuilt five of my clogged heads and now have a perpetual supply – further reducing cost (down to a few cents per) as well as the amount I need to throw into the trash. I mean, apart from physical damage, or mangling a thread, I can’t imagine how these parts could wear out! Wick and wire are the only disposables. Watch her video for instructions. Anyone can do this.

They also seem particularly resistant to cloggage and gurgling, and I have to try hard to pull enough juice through with dry puffs before I get a gurgle. As a result, getting juice in one’s mouth is a thankfully rare occurrence. Likewise, its difficult to get juice to leak downwards into the battery well, significantly reducing the cleaning required.

If it does get a bit gunky, just rinse with hot water and keep on vaping. The occasional rinse for cleanliness and the odd replacing or rebuilding of a head covers all the maintenance. Gone are the days of blowing gunk into a tissue, getting juice all over your desk (or self), boiling, soaking, rinsing and dry-burning. No need for special screwdrivers, allen keys, tweezers, toothpicks, q-tips or complicated maintenance routines and schedules. Simply fill, vape, and get on with life.

So its leakproof, so its parts are replaceable and rebuildable, so its reasonably inexpensive. That’s all great, but how does it vape?

Excellently. I found that I can consistently produce great big plumes of tasty thick vapour all day, all night – perpetually. Its design, though simple, is quite effective at doing this reliably. The 1.8Ohm stock coil seems perfect for use with 3.7V eGo batteries. I use a variable voltage spinner myself and can dial it in to vaping perfection. The coils last a long time, I have yet to burn one out (only clogged them). The four air holes significantly reduce the possibility of the intake being clogged. Some have complained that this produces a rather airy draw, which I enjoy. For those who don’t, its simple to block up one or more of these air intakes with a drop of glue or a bit of toothpick.

In conclusion, this really is the best product I have found for a consistent, hassle free, easy to maintain vape. I currently own four of them (black, stainless, blue and green) and keep them in rotation with different flavours. I pack enough juice to last a weekend and I know they won’t quit on me.

Happy vaping!

Edge Animate

I always try to follow up a negative, ball-slicing rant with something positive. Both for my own mental health and those mysterious ghost readers of my blog (which I probably don’t have anyway).

Adobe is usually one of my favourite companies to take a crap on. Sure, they often deserve it. Being so big and bloaty and annoyingly necessary. This time though, they’ve really done it.

I’m talking about Edge Animate.

Stop the world, you’ve finally done something GOOD and USEFUL. I’m surprised I’m saying that. Just saw a talk this morning at FITC  from Sarah Hunt from Adobe. Quite frankly, i’m impressed.

Get this – what if you could have flash-like animations without flash? What if you could animate something pretty damn cool without having to hand code every transition? What if there was a visual tool that marries javascript and css to produce these lovely animations?

There is: Adobe’s Edge Animate.

If you are familiar with Flash or After Effects, this will be a breeze. Hell, its better than dealing with Flash and its annoying tweening system. Make your vector animations using their keyframe editor, handily making automatic keyframes and transitions (formerly known as tweens for the former flash heads) . Then, you get to spit them out as a bunch of css and js files. That simple.

About time. Though I feel bile rising in my throat in grudging, I have to say: “thank you, Adobe”.

f4player

There are times where we don’t want a lot of useless features and especially don’t want annoying restrictions. Sometimes, all we want to do is stick a bloody video into a webpage and play it. Not mess with youtube or license-rape and certainly not shell out for something that (if we weren’t so lazy) we could make in flash.

Enter f4player by Goker Cebeci.  Its simple, its lightweight (like 10kb light!), it gets the job done. Best feature is it’s free and open source. No painful installations, configurations or bullshit. It just works.

Get f4player

Of course, documentation is … sparse, but it can be figured out very easily, simply upload the player swf, the skin swf, your video  and an optional thumbnail jpeg. Paste some embed code and set your flashvars as desired. Bang. Your video is up and playing. It is just that simple.

Source is included so you can, if you are feeling tinkery, mess with it in every conceivable way and even make your own skins.

Of course, be a good open-source citizen and chuck the guy some bucks for his hard work, and of course honour the GPL3 license.

Keiths makes two hoppy new brews!

I had occasion (let’s call it almost daily) to visit my local LCBO boutique to purchase some imbibables. Being Saturday, they had the sample cart out. Normally, I would pass it by as they proffer some new syrupy girl-drink guaranteed to give me a hangover before dinner. This time, they caught my attention – with hops.

It is becoming quite popular for craft brewers in Ontario (and elsewhere I presume) to add this magical ingredient called “hops” to their lagers. For anyone who knows anything about beer (and no, consuming a case of Bud does not count), hops are one of the few ingredients allowed by the Reinheitsgebot (German beer purity law) and an essential ingredient in what we call beer, which would otherwise me malty-alcy water.

Apparently, Alexander Keith’s, a Canadian brewery much loved (even though owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev) and celebrated throughout our nation (Canada, for the Americans) has decided to take the plunge and introduce MORE hops into their golden nectar.

I rarely buy Keith’s for the simple fact that it is a “plain vanilla” lager, though certainly much better than Budwieser. My personal tastes tend to gravitate towards the sharp hoppy bitterness of Bavarian Pilsners as a result. It takes a damn good brew to keep me from the import aisle…

The setting was perfect. On the table were two new varieties of Alexander Keith’s IPA with added hops, two DIFFERENT kinds of hops no less. Also present were two jars of the actual hop plants in question to compare aromas and illustrate the difference. I applaud Keith’s for actually assuming I’m not a senseless alcoholic (though certainly will not deny being one).

Keiths two new hoppy new brews!

Keiths two new hoppy new brews!

I was informed by the presenter that these were dry-hopped. For those not up on brew-speak, this means the hops were added after the boil and during fermentation, providing maximum aroma (read: flavour) though not contributing to the bitterness of the brew. So, with those who can’t stand the over-hopped micro-brews that leave a wincing bitter finish, this is an ideal brew to capture that hops aroma without the burnt-tongue and “blech” reflex.

The two varieties of hopped lagers on offer are “Cascade” and “Hallertaller” with printed information on the can as to how they should taste. After sampling each in turn between sniffs of the dried plant samples, I can say I was sold and purchased a number of each.

After a hearty dinner and consuming a few cans of each, I have to say I enjoy this innovation in Keiths recipe and certainly hope they will make it widely available for my perpetual consumption. Though I feel it is a bit of a cop-out to add the flavour in afterwards, I found the result smooth and flavourful. So much so that I purchased a few more cans the next day.

To those who haven’t tried it – give it a go. If nothing else, it can be written up as an educational experience as to how the mighty hop makes beer BEER. To me, it is hope that we can transcend the oceans of plain lager to something the general public can choose between, according to their mood and personal preferences. Plain vanilla lager watch out! Your days are numbered.

Available at the LCBO for $2.55 per 473mL can (seriously can’t bump it up to a 1/2 litre like the rest of the metric world?). Here’s Cascade and Hallertauer.

Clearomizer showdown

OK! So I’ve had this stuff for about a week and played with them a bit, so I thought I’d do a bit of a review.

To preface, I was looking for a solution whereby I could vape on the road and not have to drip every four pulls. Normally this would mean using a cartridge and atomizer combination, as is traditional, however I thought I’d take a dip in the cartomizer pool – specifically clearomizers.

I’ve heard a lot of great things about them and there are really some elaborate designs coming down the pipe these days. I pretty much skipped the traditional boge-type fill cartomizers as I never did like the idea of putting my juice in some poly fill, always found it left too much behind and muted the flavour. Enter the clearo.

A clearo (or clearomizer) is a cartomizer without the fill. A clear plastic tank that holds your juice and wicks it to the atomizer part. Pretty cool I guess. They come in two varieties: bottom coil and top coil. As far as I have read, they both have their pros and cons. Top coils, for example, give a rich warm vape and solid throat hit, but have wicking issues. Conversely, bottom coils suffer no wicking issues but the flavour tends to be more muted and the vapour cooler in addition to sometimes gurgling when they flood. I decided, for all my reading, to try a bunch of bottom coils before going to top coils.

In the last month, I have bought and tried three different bottom coil clearomizers and am generally happy with them. Specifically, I purchased the Firebird (phoenix), the Vision Nano, and the EVOD.  I’ll take them one at a time.

The Vision Nano Bottom-Coil Clearomizer

Vision Nano Clearomizer

Vision Nano Clearomizer

This one I wanted to like. Truly. They are thin and stylish and come in an array of colours. Handy for telling which one has which juice in it. Pretty solid construction, hard acrylic-type plastic and a 510 connection. Filling is a snap – simply unscrew the lid, fill down the side, re-assemble and vape. Simplicity. Or so one would think. The day I bought them, I filled one up and gave it a go. It worked, but not well. The flavour was … absent. It crackled and produced vapour but even my strongest juices were wimpy and half-hearted. Not a good start. In my reading, I learned that they required a “break-in” period of a 3/4 of a tank before they really started to sing. “OK” I thought, I’ll give ‘er. I must have vaped two tanks and it was still muted. What’s more is the initial plastic flavouring, which I assumed was the manufacturing oils on the coil, persisted. Disgusting. I tried to like it while my juices tasted weak and acrid. Wondering if it was perhaps a dud clearo, i opened the second one up and filled with my “breath freshener juice”. To my delight, this one worked better and needed only a brief break-in before vaping properly.

Fast forward several weeks. The original one I complained about has ceased to produce any meaningful tasty product. It still fires, but now it tastes burnt, weak and plasticy. Also, I did notice on occasion that it leaked several times for no real reason and the centre post-poitive terminal kept wiggling up preventing a good battery connection. “I’ve had it with this one” I thought, as I chucked it in the bin. The other is still working beautifully.

But for how long? At $4 a pop, these aren’t the cheapest clearos and considering I bought 2 and one did nothing more than put a bad taste in my mouth and waste precious juice… well you get the idea. 50% success ratio is hardly encouraging. I doubt I will buy these again.

The Firebird bottom Coil Clearomizer

Firebird (CE3) Clearomizer

Firebird (CE3) Clearomizer

This one (also known as the Phoenix or CE3 clearo) comes highly recommended, by none other than Steel Jan of YouTube fame (for those who haven’t seen her, check her out, she is a DIY wizard). With its top-coil sibling, they seem to be somewhat of a standard in clearos.

Although a literal pain in the butt to fill, requiring a syringe (thoughtfully included in the package), the pay-off is that they are virtually leakproof. If filled properly (upside down) the juice will stay in there. For real. It seems that no break-in period was required as it started vaping like a champ the moment I started on it.

Though admittedly ugly, being plain plastic and metal, they are superbly functional. I have not used them long enough to test their longevity but hope they live up their claim of “long lasting”.

I like them. They are cheap as in 5 for $8 and the stupid rubber cap mouthpiece can be tossed and fit a your favourite drip-tip – very much unlike other clearos!

I have 10 more on order, I like these.

The EVOD BCC (Bottom-Coil Changeable Clearomizer)

EVOD BCC Clearomizer

EVOD BCC Clearomizer

This one is fresh on the market, apparently the successor to the much loved T3 clearo.  Everything I heard about them was great so I thought I’d give them a shot.

So I get it in the mail, fill it up with my favourite juice and go to town. Result: fantastic.

Despite a built-in mouthpiece, the tip serves well and I find it quite comfortable to use. I guess the trade off here is solid construction versus modularity. Also, the design is quite sleek with it.

It holds more than the other two – about 1.6mL – and fits beautifully atop an eGo style battery. Its easy to fill like the Nano, though this time it fills from unscrewing the bottom rather than the top which stops flooding issues during filling.

The construction is solid as can be, smooth and durable.  Some have complained about its “airy draw” from its four air holes in the atomizer base. Personally I find this ok, and even if I didn’t, I could always plug one or more holes with a dab of glue or what-have-you.

Unlike the other two, it is not 510 compatible as it lacks the threads on the inside, eGo only. This is not generally a problem as I use mostly eGo compatible batteries and can use a 510-eGo adaptor for the rest.

So far, I’ve vaped about 5 tanks through the thing with zero problems – no leaking, dry hits, gurgling whatever. Once I got a bit of juice in my mouth, but that seemed an isolated incident. I guess keep it vaping and don’t pull to hard.

Here is the best part though – even though the unit is $6 a pop, more expensive than the others, it features a coil that is CHANGEABLE. Yes, you can buy new coils for it for a pittance. Instead of junking the whole clearo, just get a pack of coils and pop a new one in. It will even accept a T3 coil apparently though not vape as well.

All in all I’m most impressed with this one. Great all-around performance.

Conclusions

I think it was a good idea to get into clearos. One cannot always be messing with dripping and bottles and tissues all the time when out. It’s too distracting and messy. They sure as hell beat the traditional cartridge and atomizer systems too for both usability and convenience.

As for our three contenders, I would have to say that there is no clear winner in this “showdown”. Both the EVOD and Firebird have performed exceptionally and I will continue to use both for the proper circumstances.

If I were to make a knee-jerk choice though, the EVOD takes it. Convenient, functional, stylish, durable and changeable. It has it all. I’ll be getting more of these, in differing colours, and coils etc. They are a fantastic vape.

 

McCrystals Raspberry Snuff, A review of sorts…

OK so in my continued cleaning up binge, I finally found my tin of snuff, which I have been looking for for months. Bought in a fit of pique over not being able to smoke anywhere I damn well please like my parents, I expected snuff to provide me with – if not a suitable replacement for cigarettes – then at least a band-aid until I could get outside to burn a fag.

I truly forgot about this product for several months as I have been exploring vaping instead – to much better results.

Anyway, I feel snuff is somewhat underrated and not appreciated by the modern man/woman who enjoys their nicotine addiction. So it is with a fresh eyes and septum of iron, I tried the snuff again to rate both its enjoyment factor and its suitability as a burning tobacco replacement product.

Here pictured is the tin that I currently have:

My tin of "snuff"

My tin of “snuff”

Contained within I find a very finely divided brown powder with a slightly artificially fruity scent that tends to get on absolutely anything. Serious, slight gust of wind and this stuff is on your shirt, desk, floor, anyone within a 30′ radius. Perhaps some clever dispensing mechanism… I digress.

Having not tried this product in some time, and with the frailty of my memory as I am dragged kicking and screaming through my late 30s, I figure “what the hell” and vow to try it again. I pinch a pinch and hold it to my right nostril and inhale.

Apart from feeling like a million tiny ice-picks stabbing at my soft nasal membranes, the actual experience is quite nice. Until the inevitable happens – the drip. Sliding down the back of my throat is the heretofore untasted raspberry artificial flavour, delivered by snot. My sinuses feel like someone has sprayed Frank’s Red Hot sauce throughout them and feel somewhat like its hayfever season.

Why this was the delivery method of choice in the regency years is beyond me.

Now I remember why I have had this tin for four years and not bothered with it. Though some claim the benefits of snuff over burning tobacco (which I have no doubt snuff is the healthier choice there), I feel the delivery method leaves something to be desired to all those who aren’t 1980s clubbing executives who are using to shoving anything up their nose.

I’m not ready to say I hate it, though I have to admit it is somewhat unpleasant, lacking in the expected class of imbibing the same thing a historical man in a powdered wig would imbibe, and wholly impractical for day-to-day use.

I’ll stick to vaping.

 

Addendum: I have noted on the package it is labelled “This product may be harmful.” Well, then its official! Since it doesn’t clearly state that it will kill me and those within a blast radius, it *must* be healther than the good ol’ stinky cancer stick!